The Observer and the Coventry PEACE fracas

What is to become of the former Coventry school building and the nonprofits that call it home?

It’s been a question since before 2018, when the CH-UH City School District turned over the building to Heights Libraries.

As the building’s owner, the library system has the ultimate right to decide; by its actions, it doesn’t seem inclined to work with the tenants it has.

The building’s tenants—known collectively as Coventry PEACE—have developed a community that they and their vocal supporters are trying to maintain.

The ongoing discussion between the library system and the Coventry PEACE tenants has frequently been contentious and difficult to sort out.

When the Heights Observer has received articles and opinions on the issue, we have published them. There are two in this edition and, with the Coventry situation again burning hot, we again want to provide some disclosures.

FutureHeights, which publishes the Heights Observer, is one of the Coventry PEACE tenants. With the exception of distribution, however, most Heights Observer work is done remotely, by independent contractors, and would be unaffected if FutureHeights were to relocate.

Heights Libraries is a regular and significant advertiser; as such, it supports not only the Observer, but also FutureHeights. It also puts money directly in my (Bob's) pocket because I’m paid a commission to sell and manage Observer ads.

None of this information has ever been a secret, but we want to be proactive in disclosing it.

We also want to explain our own position as we publish information about the ongoing issue: We don’t have one.

If this were a traditional newspaper, we would assign a skilled reporter to sort out the back-and-forth accusations; talk individually with the leadership of all organizations involved; ask pointed questions; read the public documents; sift the facts from the opinions; understand the unspoken motivations and organizational politics; and present an ongoing series of reports. We would be able to say, “If you want to know what’s really going on, read this.”

But this isn’t a traditional newspaper. We don’t have a reporting staff, and we are mindfully passive about creating content. We invite the public to fill every edition of the Observer; our role is to troubleshoot contributions that are incomplete, confusing or misleading, and then package it all up to get it on the street.

The hard part is the troubleshooting. Anything you read in the Observer has been reviewed and edited—with the authors’ knowledge—to draw a line between information that’s intended to be informational v. persuasive. But it’s not always within our reach to make that distinction.

In this case, as in others, we don’t have special inside knowledge about what’s going on. We are deliberately as detached from the day-to-day operations of FutureHeights as we are from those of the library.

We recognize that the people who submit articles, opinions—or articles that we must reclassify as opinion—often have a stake in the issue, and we can’t expect them to include information that undercuts their own position.

So, we walk a tightrope of trying to provide clear information without trampling on a writer’s message. Sometimes, a published article feels like something is missing.

That’s the case with information we've received around the Coventry PEACE issue.

In this edition, we’ve taken the extra step of providing some facts about the issue that neither side provided, but which seem relevant to questions that arose in the editing process. These facts stand alone and are offered without judgment, fear or favor for one side or the other.

We acknowledge that both sides have a strong point of view, and collectively they have yet to provide a clear picture of what’s happening between Heights Libraries and Coventry PEACE.

Bob Rosenbaum and Kim Sergio Inglis

Cleveland Heights resident Bob Rosenbaum helps run the Heights Observer, and is responsible for its advertising sales and market development. Kim Sergio Inglis is the editor-in-chief of the Heights Observer.

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Volume 17, Issue 7, Posted 8:32 AM, 06.26.2024